Ditto for Saturday: Home Court Advantage Wins Again

By BILL SCHWANKE

LADY GRIZ 84, NORTHERN ARIZONA 61

Robin Selvig showed he still has a sense of humor Saturday afternoon after his Lady Griz pummeled Northern Arizona 84-61 at Dahlberg Arena.

When Lady Griz broadcaster Tom Stage pointed out that Montana shot 50 percent or better in both halves Selvig, only somewhat tongue in cheek, responded, “We do that all the time, Tom.”

This from a coach who earlier in the season might have had to add up the shooting percentages in each half to get over 50 percent.

And sorry, Tom, according to the official stats the Lady Griz shot a paltry 46.4 percent in the first half Saturday, but rallied to pour in 53.8 in the second half for exactly 50 percent for the game.

The shots were falling from everywhere put up by nearly everyone. The Lady Griz were a measly 8 of 10 from three-point range keyed by a four-for-four effort from freshman guard Torrey Hill. For some reason, after she already had drained her first three, an NAU defender chose to step away from Hill in the second half and got what she asked for.

Hill had five of Montana’s 15 turnovers against nearly game-long full-court pressure but shouldn’t take all the blame. For the umpteenth time this season the Lady Griz struggled early, dribbling merrily into traps by the quick, long-armed Jacks. It was like taking candy from a baby.

Once Montana figured out that it’s okay to dribble TOWARD its own basket against pressure, things worked out much better.

While Montana’s offense seems to be coming to life, the defense was as tough as ever. NAU managed to make only 2 of 14 from downtown and 37 percent from the field on the afternoon. The Lumberjacks did out-rebound the Lady Griz by two.

As has been the case in recent games, Montana’s depth was evidenced by the fact that the Lady Griz bench outscored NAU’s 49-29.

That’s depth from a team that was struggling to find more than a couple of players who could make it to double figures. Now Selvig can go to an increasing number of support players to give his starters a breather.

And so much for Katie Baker’s appendectomy. All the sophomore post did Saturday was lead all scorers with 17 points and share Montana’s rebounding lead with freshman Jordan Sullivan at seven.

Hill was next with 14 points with Kenzie DeBoer chipping in 13 and Sullivan 10.

The Lady Griz have to be feeling a lot better about themselves heading into a long road trip next week when they travel the width of the Big Sky Conference for games at Sacramento State Thursday night and Northern Colorado Saturday afternoon.

Someone has to tell me why the women’s teams have to play these afternoon games while the men’s teams don’t do it that often. I’m sure there’s a logical reason for it. Yeah, right!

NORTHERN ARIZONA 70, GRIZ 53

When Montana cut Northern Arizona’s lead to 38-34 with 15:25 left in the game it looked like the Griz had a chance to pull off a big road win, even without Will Cherry.

But the Lumberjacks went on a 19-2 run to put the game on ice, leading by as many as 21 halfway through the second half and coasting to the victory.

The Griz came out strong with a 4-0 lead but from then on it was a struggle. NAU chose to pressure the Cherry-less Grizzlies from the start, forced a bunch of turnovers in the first half, and converted many of those into points in building its first-half lead.

The Grizzlies shot well enough to win on the road, hitting 46 percent from the floor. But the Jacks hit 51 percent, had a bulge of seven on the boards, and beat Montana in virtually every phase of the game. NAU hit 7 of 14 from 3-point land.

The Lumberjacks had eight more assists than the Griz, three more steals, and three fewer turnovers.

Two teams that were picked to be at the top of the Big Sky race but struggled at the start of league play, Northern Arizona and Weber State, have picked it up the past two weeks and are right back in it.

Montana, not knowing how soon Cherry will be able to return, will be back home for three of its final five games including two next weekend against Sac State and front runner Northern Colorado, up on Montana by one game after sweeping Eastern Washington and Portland State in Greeley this weekend.

Both teams wound up with three players in double figures, but NAU decisively won the battle of the bench.

Brian Qvale tied for game scoring honors with NAU’s Cameron Jones with 17 points and led all rebounders with eight. Derek Selvig had 12 and Kareem Jamar 10.

It’s tough to get a handle on a game by just listening to it on the radio, but I’ve seen enough games in person over the years to have a feel for what goes on at various sites. NAU is tough to beat at home, just like Montana is, and in this case the game was played in a 900-seat gym rather than the cavernous Walkup Skydome.

I thought Wayne Tinkle’s post-game comments were right on point. The Grizzlies showed some heart, but need to get back to Griz basketball basics, with or without Will Cherry. Credit to Weber State and Northern Arizona for coming off the mat to compete in league play, but the Griz are still ahead of both in league standings and split with both during the regular season.

If the Grizzlies can get it back together, with or without Cherry, they’re still in great position going down the stretch.  Back to UM Hoops home page.

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“Grizzly Bill” Schwanke is a UM journalism grad and Missoula native.  He spent 21 years doing play-by-play for Griz football and men’s basketball winning sportscaster of the year six times and working in Grizzly athletics for 15 years total. He’s enjoying retirement, especially the chance to spend time with his three grandsons. His wife Lynn and he have been married for 42years.